Wrong direction

I pointed out recently that in the recent autumn statement there was a determination to drive down procurement costs in education. This is presumably so that more of the dwindling funding in real terms can be better used to support teaching and learning. It was, therefore, disappointing to read the research issued yesterday by Lucy Powell, the Labour shadow Secretary of State and her excellent team of researchers, that spending on supply teachers had risen to more than £1.3 billion pounds a year in 2013/14.

Now spending on supply often falls into one of two categories; either daily supply expenditure to cover absences and or support over a longer-term for unfilled vacancies. According to the data Labour have used, academies have seen a larger rise in spending on supply teachers than the remaining maintained schools. Without looking more closely at the type of schools that became academies during the period between 2011/12 and 2013/14 and the effect of the changing financial year from April to March to September to August, when a school moves from being maintained to being an academy, it is difficult to do more than note the figures and that the overall increase for all schools is around half of that for academies. Nevertheless, an increase of a fifth across the sector won’t help schools meet the government’s stated intention to drive down procurement costs.

If it can be shown that the majority of the rise is due to staffing difficulties, then this is another piece of evidence of a staffing crisis, a crisis that Mr Gibb, the Minister, was reluctant to acknowledge when he appeared before the Select Committee last week. Even the Chief Inspector recognised the concerns in his recent Annual Report even using the data from the Annual Workforce Census undertaken in November; not a noted time for high levels of vacancies.

Of course, the Treasury will benefit, since presumably 20% of the £1.3 billion spent on supply teachers is VAT and no doubt a large proportion of it finds its way into HMRC coffers. Perhaps this could then be re-cycled back into education spending.

As regular readers know, one way for schools to cut spending on recruitment is to use our free TeachVac site www.teachvac.co.uk that is now approaching the end of its first full-year. I think it fair to say, even before the final numbers are collated, that Teachvac has posted more main scale secondary vacancies in its first year in operation than any other site achieved when a start-up.

Now, TeachVac offers a full service for all schools, still for free, we are looking to double that number in 2016. Local authorities, dioceses and academy chains with vacancy circulars can post vacancy details also for free and receive tracking data about the state of the job market in 2016. Give the TeachVac team a ring on 01865 418375 to learn more about how to sign up for free or visit the web site and watch the videos.

In a year when teacher supply became headline news, the TeachVac team are helping an increasing number of schools cut the cost of recruitment. If you know a school or teacher not signed up, give them a Christmas present by telling them about TeachVac.

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